July 18, 2009
Alzheimer's Genetic Variant Acclerates Brain Aging

A genetic variant that boosts Alzheimer's Disease risk also accelerates aging of the brain. A new study led by Mayo Clinic researchers and published in the New England Journal of Medicine APOE e4 gene carriers showed a faster cognitive decline starting in their mid-50s.

The study, which followed participants for up to 14 years, used sensitive memory and thinking tests to detect, track and compare cognitive performance in 815 healthy people, 21 to 97 years of age, with two copies, one copy and no copies of the APOE e4 gene, the major genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease at older ages. Each additional copy of this gene is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and a slightly younger age at the onset of clinically significant memory and thinking problems.

Approximately one out of four people have one copy of the APOE e4 gene, which was inherited from one parent, and about 2 percent have two copies, which were inherited from both parents.

"We found that memory declines begin to differentiate groups of people at these three levels of genetic risk starting between ages 55 and 60, years earlier than previously suspected, and well before the anticipated onset of clinically significant symptoms," said Richard J. Caselli, M.D., Chair of Mayo Clinic's Neurology Department in Arizona and lead author of the research study. "While other age-sensitive cognitive skills also change, memory, specifically, appears to decline more quickly in APOE e4 gene carriers, and it is this pattern of cognitive aging that is similar to (but much milder than) what we expect to see in patients with Alzheimer's disease. This suggests that seemingly normal age-related memory loss may actually represent very early, preclinical-stage Alzheimer's disease."

Regardless of whether you have this genetic variant all the dietary advice for reducing Alzheimer's risk still applies.

What's the big picture here? Brain aging is the worst part of aging because it slowly takes your own mind away while you still live. We need repair and rejuvenation therapies for the brain. Some of us are going to live to see the development of these therapies. Support their development. What's at stake with rejuvenation therapy development is far greater than with the vast bulk of what we see reported on the news. We need much better therapies far more than we need more delivery of existing therapies because existing therapies can not fix most of what goes wrong with us. Keep that in mind as you listen to health care debates.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 18 07:33 PM  Aging Brain Genetic Studies


Comments
Aki_Izayoi said at July 19, 2009 11:01 AM:

Maybe the research could be supported by Chinese savings... consider the savings of the Chinese as a large untapped health savings account.

Nick G said at July 20, 2009 2:43 PM:

We need much better therapies far more than we need more delivery of existing therapies

In theory, I agree. OTOH, we'll need the health-care system to move better therapies quickly into clinical practice when they arrive. Will that happen? Based on current practice, I'm not optimistic.

There's a lot of useful research results out there, that haven't been integrated into clinical practice. I think part of the problem is that there's just too much information to process. Also, there's great institutional resistance to change.

For instance: there's good research that suggests that COQ10 provides dramatic help for people in kidney failure: in the study, it took a large % of patients off of dialysis. The study was large, and had a control group. I found this study when our German Shepherd was in kidney failure, and used COQ10 to reverse her symptoms. The vets were....well, I think several I worked with never really believed it - one talked about publishing it, but didn't follow through.

Kidney failure is an enormous problem for humans, and yet I've seen no sign of this research being acted on. No one is questioning it that I can tell, or trying to replicate the study, just...silence.

30 years ago I was more optimistic about medical science than I am now. As far as I can tell, careerism is stalling medical research by making researchers take tiny incremental steps rather than taking risks; drug companies aren't interested in drugs that would make their big revenue items obsolete; and doctors have information overload.

Sigh.

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